Sports gambling companies in Ontario may soon have to advertise their services without the help of famous sports stars or other celebrities.
The Alcohol and Gambling Commission of Ontario (AGCO) wants to ban the use of athletes and celebrities who might appeal to children in Internet gambling ads.
“AGCO has identified advertising and marketing approaches that strongly appeal to individuals who are under the legal gaming age through the use of celebrities and/or athletes,” said a blog post published by the commission on Thursday.
The new rules, if finalized, will mean that all gambling advertising that uses active or retired athletes will have to stop. They will also ban companies from using cartoon characters, social media influencers, celebrities and symbols or role models that are “reasonably expected to appeal to minors” in their ads.
The proposed rules would come as an amendment to the province’s internet gambling advertising standards. The commission will accept comments from interested parties until May 8 before making formal changes. AGCO is proposing that any new rules not go into effect until three months after the publication of the final, amended standards — but the commission did not specify when that publication might be.
In April 2022, the United Kingdom introduced similar rules, banning athletes, reality TV stars and social media stars who appeal to young people from appearing in gambling ads. And just this week, clubs in the UK’s Premier League agreed to stop advertising gambling companies on their football shirts.
Past and present NHL stars such as Wayne Gretzky, Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid can be found in commercials, online ads and on billboards featuring online gambling companies.
In January CBC’s the fifth estate published an investigation into sports betting in Canada. When contacted by the CBC for this investigation, Gretzky, McDavid and Matthews declined to talk about the gambling brands they represent.
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How big is gambling in Ontario?
Since Ontario became the first province in Canada to launch an open, regulated iGaming market, there have been more than 1.6 million active player accounts on websites operated by companies with iGaming Ontario (iGo) agreements, according to iGo. There are over 40 operators with such agreements — 31 of them offer sports betting.
On April 4, iGo said that in the first year of the legal online gambling market, the province generated “about $35.6 billion in total wagers and approximately $1.4 billion in total gambling revenue.” But these numbers don’t just include sports betting, as they also cover casino games and peer-to-peer poker. The iGo data does not detail the proportion of bets that are placed solely on sports.
The totals shared by iGo also do not include the digital gaming business that the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) reports, including its own sports betting transactions.
According to an Ipsos survey conducted in March, basketball is the most popular sport in the province for bettors (at 28 per cent), followed by football (15 per cent), soccer (14 per cent), hockey (nine per cent) and baseball (eight per cent) .